Header Fish Lake - Colorful fall foliage surrounds Fish Lake

Disappear to Sevier, a Place Less Traveled

When two trail-mendous trips diverge in a wood, don’t be sorry … take them both.

By Melinda Rhodes
March 19, 2024

This article is sponsored by Sevier County

Welcome to Sevier County, located amid Utah’s plateau country. Where the highest form of flat-tery isn’t lofty enough to describe the vibrant volcanic vistas. Where rural charm is seen in every smile and heard in every hello. Where ranches and rodeos are still a way of life.

But don’t worry if you’re a city slicker sans cowboy boots. Hiking shoes are also widely worn in Sevier as national forests ribboned with footpaths cover more than half the county. And let’s not forget the web of MTB and ATV* trails. Helmet hair? Don’t care. This is Utah’s Trail Country.

A Colorful, Cultural Vacation Destination

The name says it all. Big Rock Candy Mountain, located on the west side of Sevier County, sports candy-colored slopes. Its dreamy appearance looks like someone took a pastel mix of M&M’s and melted some butterscotch candies and threw it all on the mountainside. But in reality, the colors are courtesy of mineralized deposits from ancient volcanic activity.  

Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort has some pretty sweet (pun intended) lodging options with direct access to the Paiute ATV Trail System. Bring your own OHVs and hook up your RV in one of its 36 shady, riverside sites. Or, spend the night in a custom-designed train car or caboose and rent an ATV or UTV from a local outfitter and have them delivered right to the resort. 

Rental rigs include 2-seaters for the adventurous couple and 4-seaters for your quad squad. Trying to fit the whole fam damily? Reserve a 6-seater. Prefer pedal power to horsepower? You can rent bikes and instead hit the Big Rock Candy Mountain Loop, which is part of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. 

Just around the corner from Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort is Fremont Indian State Park and Museum. It’s totally worth a visit while you’re in the area. Follow the modern pictographs (road signs) to get there. Ancient artifacts from the Fremont Culture’s largest known village are on display inside.

Outside, a series of short trails meander past petroglyphs preserved on the canyon walls, which tell the story of these hunters and gatherers. The Paiute ATV Trail System is also directly accessible from Fremont Indian State Park and Museum. 

Off-Season Travel Tip: Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort’s onsite restaurant, as well as eateries in nearby Marysvale, are seasonal. Some operate on weekends only, while others may be closed entirely during late fall and winter. Most of the restaurants in Richfield (25 minutes north of the resort) are open year-round. Sure, you can get all-day breakfast at a national diner in Richfield. But there are plenty of mouth-watering local eateries, too. May we suggest some old-fashioned burgers and shakes from Sandi’s Drive Inn? Or how about a hand-cut steak at Sagebrush Grill? Mmmmm.     

A Getaway Among Nature’s Giants

Hulk-like greens in summer. Aspens aglow in autumn. Fishlake National Forest delivers both — especially its Pando Clone. Consisting of 40,000(ish) trees on a single root system, Pando is the planet’s largest living organism. You could speed past it on Highway 25 like the road was the Pando Express, but that would be as blasphemous as fast-forwarding through the slow-mo sequence in The Matrix. Stop at mile marker 6 and take a leisurely look. Or for a bird's eye view, hike some (or all!) of the Lakeshore National Recreation Trail to the Pando Lookout.

But Pando ain’t the only colossal feature in this forest. Fish Lake is Utah’s largest natural mountain lake, with 2,500 surface acres of crystal-clear water. And it’s teeming with trophy-sized catches, like mackinaw trout, which commonly weigh up to 30 pounds. (Sometimes more!) Fish Lake also boasts a paved bike path along its shore and a couple of resorts — Fish Lake Lodge and Lakeside Resort — offering overnight accommodations as well as pontoon and kayak rentals. 

There are also plenty of less people-y places to recreate. Portions of the Paiute ATV Trail System and the Great Western Trail can be accessed from trailheads and developed campgrounds in Fishlake National Forest, and there are a few dispersed campgrounds along the trail for those who really want to immerse themselves in nature. 

Or if you prefer smooth and paved to bumpy and brave, hop back in your daily driver and continue on Highway 25 to Johnson Reservoir. Watch for sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds and other wildlife in the marshes and meadows along the way. You might even see a moose in the early evening. As for that growling sound? It probably isn't a big ol’ bear, but rather your stomach telling you it’s time for some hand-scooped ice cream from the general store inside Bowery Haven Resort. 

Pro Packing Tip: Fish Lake, Utah, sits at 8,848 feet, and summer water temps average a chilly 53-56 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan to get in the water at all, you’re gonna want a wetsuit and/or a nice warm surf poncho hooded towel to put on afterward. The air temperature is also cooler than in the valley below. It’s always a good idea to bring layers for the mornings and evenings.

Plan Your Trail-mendous Trip

*Wherever you decide to ride in Sevier County, new riders (both in- or out-of-state) must complete the Utah Off-Highway Vehicle Education Course before they can whip through the whoops. This is a one-time requirement and only takes about 30 minutes.